In 1967 Fort Huachuca, Arizona became the headquarters of the U.S. Army Strategic Communications Command (STRATCOM). My husband, a career soldier, was transferred to the base and I moved there to remain close to him. I obtained a job at the base and was assigned to the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate division.
STRATCOM had a nice custom of raising money each year to help support thousands of children in orphanages near STRATCOM bases in Vietnam and Thailand.
In 1968 Fort Huachuca conducted for their fundraiser a three-week contest to select a “Miss STRATCOM.” Thirteen ladies, representing their respective departments, vied for the coveted crown.
Our department, Staff Judge Advocate, consisted of just seven members: The Judge Advocate, two military attorneys, two civilian attorneys, one military clerk and me — a 43 year old grandmother!
I appreciated the importance this contest meant to STRATCOM’s cause. In my earlier years I lived through the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, where I witnessed a great deal of suffering and deprivation. I put aside all negative thoughts and opted to become the thirteenth contestant. I chose “Go Granny” as my slogan.
The contestant who collected the most money would be crowned Miss STRATCOM. According to the ground rules established for the contest, all contributions had to be voluntary and no solicitation of funds could be conducted outside Fort Huachuca.
The Plan: Each morning between 7:30 and 8:00, the contestants were to assemble at the Greely Hall entrance with our “voting” cans; each vote cost the voter 25 cents. At closing time the first morning my can had no votes! I came to the stark realization that standing at the Greely Hall entrance was not my “cup of tea” considering that most donors seemed to believe it was a beauty contest and a forty-three year-old grandmother stood out like a sore thumb!
At lunch with my husband that day, we discussed ways and means to make voting pleasant, mouth-watering and innovating. We came up with a plan:
Instead of joining the other contestants at the Greely Hall entrance each morning I would set up a small table outside our office offering a cup of coffee and a doughnut for one vote. Then on Tuesdays and Thursdays for lunch I would serve different delicacies at $1.75 (seven votes) a plate. The menu for the three Tuesdays would be Indian Curry served over steamed rice and for the Thursdays, sweet and sour pork served over steamed rice.
During each of the three weekends, we shopped at the commissary for all ingredients. Our children pitched in. We cut and cubed the pork and beef as well as all other ingredients. We spent each Monday and Wednesday night cooking. The cafeteria manager was most accommodating, suggesting that Tuesday and Thursday mornings, my husband should deliver the food to the Cafeteria to be kept on warmers until ready to serve.
At 11:30 each Tuesday and Thursday morning, we joined together three desks, covering them with sheets and began serving. By 12:30 we were out of food and had to turn away a number of people. This pattern continued until the contest ended.
At the conclusion of the contest it was announced by the base newspaper:
“A delightful and resourceful recent grandmother has walked off with one of STRATCOM’S most coveted titles. This year’s fund drive brought in the most money in history and Mrs. Alice Dent of the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate was named Miss STRATCOM from among the 13 contestants vying for the title.“